erik lundegaard

Politics posts

Thursday May 14, 2015

Your Go-To Stat In Case Any Asshole Complains About How Much Teachers Make


[Pres. Obama] pointed out that the top 25 hedge-fund managers made more money last year than all the kindergarten teachers in the country.

It's from Paul Ellie's New Yorker post, “The President and Poverty,” which misses an obvious cultural point. It's all about how important issues back in the day (early 1960s) were put into books, read by presidents, and things got done. Now they're put into books, read by presidents, and things don't get done. 

What happened? 

Elie finds fault here:

... because an obstinate Congress holds the President and the poor in equal contempt, rendering the world's most-powerful man something like an armchair public-policy analyst rather than a policy maker.

But I blame us, too. We're not, in Gore Vidal's phrase, a serious people. We don't follow the news (unless it's tragedy or gossip or both), we don't read serious books, we don't have serious conversations. We're children: We keep asking Hollywood to tell us the same story over and over again, and that story stars superheroes.

Oh, and those hedge-fund managers? They pay only 15 percent in taxes. Less than you, most likely. 

5/15 ADDENDUM: The Washington Post crunches the numbers on the stat. It's worse than I thought. What does it say about a country that the pay of 25 hedge-fund managers > the pay of 158,000 kindergarten teachers? And what does it say that the pay of teachers is a GOP/FOX News talking point? That we debate that rather than the pay of hedge-fund managers? And don't debate that those 25 hedge-fund managers pay less in taxes than those 158,000 kindergarten teachers? 

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Posted at 01:04 PM on May 14, 2015 in category Politics
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Sunday May 10, 2015

'In the Republican Party, Crazy is a Constituency'

Bill Maher mocks the tea-party crazies who think Pres. Obama and the U.S. military, via “Jade Helm 15,” are planning to invade Texas and impose martial law:

Money rant:

You rural white people who say “Don't mess with Texas”? Let me tell you something: You are among the most left-alone, least messed-with people on the planet. You can carry an assault rifle into Chili's, what more do you want? The right to do it shirtless? You're practically your own independent country now. You've outlawed abortion, you've gutted government regulations, you're armed to the teeth, you're the white Somalia. Stop worrying about getting sucked into the New World Order, you're barely in the current world order.

I would add a rant about the commentators on the left, who tend to offer, “Yes, but ...” reactions to the conspiracy theory. Yes, it's a bit crazy, but it's rooted in the militarization of our police force. Except it really isn't. The conspiracy theorists love their military, they love their guns, they just don't love their current president. Imagine if Pres. Bush were still in office. Would this conspiracy theory have legs? No. If this were 2006, “Jade Helm 15” military exercises wouldn't be a source for conspiracy theories but an excuse for another barbecue. Shirtless.

ADDENDUM: Amy Davidson of The New Yorker clarifies matters without false equivalencies. 

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Posted at 06:41 AM on May 10, 2015 in category Politics
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Tuesday April 07, 2015

John Oliver Lets Edward Snowden Know He Ruined His Life for Nothing

This is what I wrote at the end of my review of “CitizenFour,” Laura Poitras's Oscar-winning documentary on Edward Snowden:

We visit Snowden briefly in Moscow, where he’s now living with his girlfriend. ... But the questions I’d like to ask Edward Snowden aren’t asked. What’s it like being so plugged in—as he was at the NSA—and then being completely unplugged, as he is now? Did he think the reaction of the world was commensurate with the problem as he saw it? I’d ask “The Insider” questions: Was it worth it? If he could go back, would he still come forward? Would he still blow the whistle?

Are we worth it?

On Sunday, John Oliver aired his interview with Edward Snowden on “Last Week Tonight,” and we got the following exchange:

Oliver in voiceover: While the risks were significant, Snowden himself has made it clear that he feels that the rewards have been worth it. 

Oliver to Snowden: You said yourself in your letter to Brazil, “I was motivated by a belief that the citizens of the world deserve to understand the world in which they live. My greatest fear was that no one would listen to my warning. Never have I been so glad to have been so wrong.” How did that feel?

Snowden: I was initially terrified that this was gonna be a three-day story and everyone was going to forget about it. But when I saw that everybody around the world said, “Whoa, this is a problem; we have to do something about this,” it felt like vindication. ... I think we're seeing something amazing, which is: If you ask the American people to make tough decisions, to confront tough issues, to think about hard problems, they'll actually surprise you. 

Then Oliver surprises Snowden by showing him footage in which New Yorkers are asked who Edward Snowden is. Many don't know. One woman thinks he “sold some information to people.” Others confuse him with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. 

Are we worth it? Snowden thought we were. Oliver traveled all the way to Moscow to disabuse him of that notion. It's worth watching, partly for that sad theater, but mostly for the questions raised throughout.

John Oliver and Edward Snowden

Are we worth it? Oliver releases crucial data to Snowden.

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Posted at 05:30 PM on Apr 07, 2015 in category Politics
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Monday March 30, 2015

'I Find the NRA to be Hard Work'

Earlier this year, Patricia and I watched the Frontline special, “Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA.” Here’s the trailer:

Actually, P only watched half of it. She didn’t need the rest. Neither did I, really. But it’s like when you’re on the losing team and you force yourself to watch the winning team celebrate on the field. To remind yourself.

The doc focuses on three shootings—Columbine in April 1999, Gabby Giffords in January 2011, Sandy Hook in December 2012—and how each renewed calls for gun control, and how after each the NRA emerged stronger. We all know how it goes by now: 1) People are killed by guns; 2) a majority of people say we need to do something about guns; 3) a minority of people buy more guns and strengthen their support for the NRA; 4) nothing happens. World without end.

It helps that the NRA has the entire history of Hollywood movies on its side. That’s why Wayne LaPierre’s line works. He says, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” and we think of Bruce Willis or Clint Eastwood or John Wayne or Tom Mix or William S. Hart. Cowboys without end.

Here are the NRA’s three basic arguments:

  1. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
  2. Gun control regulations only stop good guys from getting guns; bad guys will get them any way they can.
  3. Second Amendment, yo.

That third argument, well, an individual right to gun ownership is a relatively new concept. For more than 200 years, the U.S. Supreme Court read the Second Amendment as a collective right to gun ownership. Maybe someday we’ll all go back to that. But we need to shut down the first two arguments first.

How? Public safety won’t do it. If Sandy Hook didn’t change things, nothing will. We’ve stopped caring. Or we only care about other people’s kids in bits and pieces, while gun lovers care about their guns 24/7. Plus they reframe the debate. They make it about personal freedom. And they co-opt the safety argument. (See #2, above.)

So what's left? One option is to unman them.

What are high-powered magazine clips but weapons for people who can’t shoot straight? Just how many rounds do you need to hit your target? And how many weapons do you have to strap on to make yourself feel like a man? At all times, Open Carry movement? How sad is that? How sad is your need for strap-ons. What is the NRA but a lobbying organization. Who is Wayne LaPierre but a lobbyist with a French name. You don't think FOX News couldn't grind him to dust if he were on the other side? 

Or we can all just watch this Aussie comedian take them down. (Thanks for the link, Erika.) Love his matter-of-fact line, “I find the NRA to be hard work.” Yep.

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Posted at 07:29 AM on Mar 30, 2015 in category Politics
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Wednesday February 25, 2015

Obama's Veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline is the Third of His Presidency; What Does That Mean Historically?

Via, which should know:

President Reg. Pocket Total
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) 372  263  635
Grover Cleveland (1885-1889) 304  110  414
Harry S. Truman (1945-1953) 180  70  250
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) 73  108  181
Grover Cleveland (1893-1897) 42  128  170
Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) 45  48  93
Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) 42  40  82
Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) 39  39  78
Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977) 48  18  66
Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929) 20  30  50
Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) 19  25  44
George H. W. Bush (1989-1993)
29  15  44
Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) 33  11  44
Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974) 26  17  43
William McKinley (1897-1901) 36  42
William H. Taft (1909-1913) 30  39
Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) 21  16  37
William J. Clinton (1993-2001) 36  37
Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) 13  18  31
Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) 16  14  30
Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) 21  29
John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) 12  21
Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) 12  13
Andrew Jackson(1829-1837) 12
Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885) 12
George W. Bush (2001-2009) 12  12
John Tyler (1841-1845) 10
Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) 9
Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) 7
James Buchanan (1857-1861) 7
James Madison (1809-1817) 7
Warren G. Harding(1921-1923) 6
Barack H. Obama (2009-present) 3 3
James K. Polk (1845-1849) 3
George Washington (1789-1797) 2
Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) 2
James Monroe (1817-1825) 1
Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) 1
James A. Garfield (1881) 0
John Adams (1797-1801) 0
John Q. Adams (1825-1829) 0
Millard Fillmore (1850-1853) 0
William H. Harrison (1841) 0
Zachary Taylor (1849-1850) 0

May there be more. 

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Posted at 05:31 PM on Feb 25, 2015 in category Politics
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